Thursday, February 7, 2008

U.S. Digital TV Transition Rife with Confusion

A new study by Consumer Reports finds that almost three-quarters of American citizens have misconceptions about the impact of the transition to digital TV one year from now; while a third are completely unaware of it.

"Confusion about the digital television transition will cost consumers a lot of money for equipment they may not want or need," said Joel Kelsey, a policy analyst for Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports. "Based on these survey results, it is now clear that our government and every media company that profits from consumers watching television must do whatever it takes to help consumers keep getting broadcast TV, without paying a dime more than necessary."

I'd be surprised if this transition occurs without a hitch, and especially without a consumer having to pay "a dime more than necessary". The study discovered that 61% of those who would be affected think they won't be; while about 33% who won't be affected are ready to head out and purchase either a converter box or new TV even though they don't need one.

U.S. CE retailers really should expect a flood of consumers coming in last minute to purchase required equipment; and conversely, another flood arriving to return equipment that they realize they don't actually need. Will they change return policies during that time? Hmm....

Anyway, for the U.S. readers out there, here's the skinny on the transition:

1) You DO NOT need to shove your old analog TV in the dumpster. If you have an analog TV and are viewing free, over-the-air programming, you might just need to connect it to a digital converter box, or subscribe to a cable or satellite service provider.

2) Only analog sets that view free, over-the-air programming, will no longer be able to access programming as of February 2009 because all analog broadcasts will cease to exist. Therefore, if you have an analog set, but subscribe to digital cable or satellite service, you shoud be OK.

3) For those who will need to purchase a converter box, the U.S. government is offering a coupon to help offset its cost. The $40 coupon can be acquired by phone, web, or mail.

4) If you decide that you want to use the digital TV transition as an opportunity to upgrade to a digital TV "just because", make sure that you dispose of any old analog TVs safely, or donate it to someone who could use it. It's just common sense.

Consumer Reports adds that the U.S. government plans to spend about US$6.5 million in public education funding on the transition; while the U.K. has budgeted $450 million. One could argue that's a lot of money to allocate to consumer education on the subject; but on the flip side, will it help avoid a major outcry once the time comes? We've got one year to find out.


in da biz said...

I think it's safe to say that manufacturers and retailers will do their bets (worst?) to take advantage of confusion surrounding the switch-over. Ever seen ads for "Full HD", 1080i televisions or other useless and misleading marketing tactics? Sure you have and you'll see that kind of cynical behaviour ramped up considerably now that there is a hard date and a way to link slimy marketing efforts to a government sponsored program.
Don't get me wrong - I'm in retail and love a good invoice as much as the next guy. I just get disgusted by the never ending gold rush mentality of players in our industry and their unrelenting willingness to do whatever it takes to push another box out the door.

Francisco said...

Click here for more information on the digital transition

Consumer Reports and have a great information site on Digital TV.

And they set up a way to share your experience with the transition to digital television.